So far this winter, I’ve only seen the most miniscule of snow flurries, one short burst! It seems to me that Mother Nature’s purpose in this is to remind us she hasn’t forgotten snow’s “recipe.”
Even though old men (I’m 72 this month) frequently think of warmer climates, we often have a special place in our hearts (and minds) for the snows of our youth.
Thinking back, one year stands out, not just for me, but for many people living then in the piedmont of North Carolina and Virginia: 1960. If you hear some seniors say, “I remember the winter when it snowed every Wednesday in March,” they’re not fibbing or dealing with befuddled memory. They’re correct (in fact, I’m relying on my personal memory of that month to write this piece).
On March 5th, 1960, I turned 9-years old. My mother had planned a birthday party for me with my invited neighborhood friends, but snow began falling heavily, and it was “sticking” (some “quasi-meteorological” terms can’t be improved upon, they just work).
As the blizzard increased, the likelihood of my birthday party decreased. My mother called the families involved to make a possible re-scheduling; but the children insisted on celebrating, so those who lived nearby came through the snow, carrying presents. In memory’s eye, I can still see the approaching colors of the pretty bows and birthday wrapping paper standing out against a literally “snow white” background, otherwise resembling the “white out” sometimes experienced by winter travelers.
Because of the amount of that snowfall and the month’s low temperatures, most of each snow remained, being added to by another “blizzard” the following Wednesday. That Wednesday of my birthday was the beginning of a month of epic snowfalls, occurring like clockwork every Wednesday, causing that month and year to be forever linked in a memory-dream of childhood’s perfect winter.
School children were provided with many school-less days in March 1960. I remember playing out in the front yard of my home in sunset-color snow, when one of my parents would call out to me that the local radio station had announced, “No school tomorrow.”
During that month, each weekly snow would end with some sleet and freezing rain to top it off. By month’s end, every time I stepped outside to play, my feet caused a loud cracking noise as I stepped and broke through the first layer of ice, then the series of layers below, each repetition of that crunching sound becoming more muffled the further my feet sank.
My birthday cake had a couple of layers, but by month’s end, my yard’s “snow-layer cake” consisted of several more, each sealed by a covering of hardened frozen-rain “frosting” and sleet.
After the deepest of the muffled crunching noises, I eventually stood on something firm and silent, but still but not as firm as solid ground.
My feet had finally come to rest upon the earliest of the March snows of 1960, the preserved snow of my 9th birthday party.